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Francisco hopes to walk across the stage at his graduation

The accident happened three weeks after he started classes at The Blackbird Academy, Martina McBride’s husband John’s sound engineering school in Nashville. It was April of 2016, and David Francisco was riding his bike just a mile away from the school when a car sped through a red light and sent him flying 10 feet in the air. The accident left the 24 year old with a broken back, a damaged spinal cord, a shredded arm, and paralyzed from the waist down.

John stayed with his student at the hospital until his parents, John and Mitzi Platillero, arrived from Knoxville. “He’s laying there in misery,” McBride told The Tennessean. “He was in and out of it. A huge gash on his left arm, and they sewed up while I was standing there. Oh God … Man, it was so emotional. You relate as a parent.”

When David’s parents arrived, John Platillero fell into his arms. “We hugged as if we knew each other all our lives,” Francisco’s father recalled to The Tennessean. “We’re both crying, and he said, ‘We’re going to be with you all the way through this.’”

He was serious. Not only did the school refund the family’s tuition deposit, but McBride and their industry friends launched online fundraisers that brought in more than $30,000 for Francisco’s treatment. MusiCares, the charity branch of the Grammys organization, also made a donation. In no time at all Francisco had enough money to transfer to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, which specializes in cutting-edge rehabilitation for spinal cord and brain injuries.

His progress there was slow but steady. Eventually he regained movement in his legs. Eight months later Francisco moved back to Nashville, standing and walking with the help of crutches. In January he returned to The Blackbird Academy (tuition free) and is set to graduate the six-month program on Friday (June 30). Francisco hopes to walk without assistance at graduation.

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And it’s not just his physical progress that’s impressive, despite it all, he’s also managed to excel professionally. He’s writing and recording songs, mixing projects for others, and has even performed with Martina McBride and Steven Curtis Chapman.

“I do believe in God,” Francisco recently told The Tennessean. “Taking the broken thing that happened and it is being redeemed in so many ways. That has been really powerful for me.”